This other book

On a recent trip back to Iowa for two MFA thesis defenses in one afternoon (congratulations to my now former students, Alex and Beatrice!), my 12-year-old son recommended for us, and his 10-year-old brother, the book Magyk, by Angie Sage, so we brought it along. Once in a while when you listen to something on CD, the book and the reading of it make you want to get back to driving after each break and maybe not want to take the break in the first place, despite the calls of nature. That was our experience with Magyk. As read by Allan Corduner, it was suspenseful, imaginative, and entertaining all the way through, with distinctive voices for just about all the characters.

I suppose some readers might want to find fault with the sort of piecemeal ending, but I found it a welcome retardation device (this is a pacing term invented by the Russian Formalists) that helped us to return to earth after the fast movement of the plot towards the end. Adult readers/listeners will have probably figured out who Septimus Heap is well before the end, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining, especially when you’ve got a rapt ten-year-old in the back seat, waiting to find out.

Walking Across the Gymnasium Floor

In Proofingdom all rules of grammar and punctuation may be questioned.

Does one quote or italicize the titles of paintings? (The Chicago Manual of Style — let’s say CMS — says italicize.)

Oh, no, I have a lot of notes that are only partially complete. Did I really mean a book by Sherry Turkle published in 2009? I don’t think I read the book she published that year, but I did read one that came out in 2012. I must have meant that one, but how could I have been three whole years off? This is what I get for writing a book over so many years’ time. (Is there really an apostrophe after the word “years” in such a construction? Yes, says the CMS, there is!)

Let us all remember what it is like to walk across a gymnasium floor, conscious that all eyes are focused on the way our hands move back and forth, as if in slow motion, for this is how proofing makes us feel. Nothing will escape the possibility of scrutiny by some imagined other, watching from the bleachers.

But there is something intensifying of life in this strange self-conscious scrutiny, by contrast to that experience of the gym floor, which always just left me red-faced. I suppose it is because I must feel that I know the answers to all these questions, me and my chum CMS, that is.